Ben’s 2017 Top 10 Part 2: Re: Top 5 Dream Drops By Sleep

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Well, here we are. The big five. The top cheese. The crème de la crème. I’m proud to present my five favorite sports uniforms of all time. Hell yeah, baby! Let’s get up on this!

5. San Diego Clippers Roa-

Wait, they’re telling me this is supposed to be the second part of my video game top 10.

Well, that’s not nearly as fun. Alright, my five favorite games of 2017. Let’s go.

5. Metroid: Samus Returns

While this game doesn’t shake off all the tedium of its original game boy predecessor, Samus Returns is a great addition to one of my favorite Nintendo franchises. The parry beam added a satisfying element to the combat where with good timing you could just shove super missiles down an enemy’s throat, and the new special abilities ended up all feeling distinctly useful for the various threats you’ll face.

However, the big highlight for me, was simply the improvements to the map system which made getting around the world smoother than any Metroid game that came before. Having it on the bottom 3DS screen obviously helps, but making your own unique marks on the map to know what item you’re waiting to find made getting 100% feel like a natural next step rather than a distinct challenge like that of the previous games. Samus feels agile and responsive like she needs to in order to make getting around enjoyable, and the superior navigation abilities cut out almost all the frustration I might have felt from it.

My favorite things about Samus Returns are mostly quality of life improvements that maybe aren’t that exciting to read about, but it says a lot that a Metroid game can still show up after all these years and feel a step ahead of a lot of other platformers like it. It was hard not to miss Nintendo’s beloved bounty hunter over the last few years. Welcome back.

4. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Admittedly, Breath of the Wild dropped off pretty sharply for me by the end. The time was right for a new approach tothe Zelda series, but I do feel like some important things were lost here. Dungeon depth and variety were all gone, and the feeling of progression felt lost as the few things of permanent value that you ever found were mostly health and stamina upgrades. This made the game feel more like exploration for exploration’s sake than I personally would have liked.

But man, Breath of the Wild‘s exploration is so damn good! Even without the material promise of previous Zelda games, they make the world feel so vast and interesting. It smartly removes the checklist-ridden blueprint of other open-world games and actually puts things in the world that you want to go to and check out. And with the emphasis on climbing and gliding to get around, nothing in the environment feels insurmountable. You can go anywhere as long as you carefully consider every step of your approach.

Breath of the Wild is a game full of things I can nitpick, to the point that it’s hard not to be a little disappointed in it as a Zelda game. Strictly as an open-world game, though, Breath of the Wild is one of the best I’ve ever played. I really am eager to see what Nintendo can do from this new foundation they’ve built, because there is so much promise here.

3. Night in the Woods

Initially, Night in the Woods starts with the promise of a sort of mystery, but the game actually takes its sweet time getting to any of that. First and foremost, this game is about the characters. It’s about their goals, their failures, their relationships, and all the conflicts that come from trying to deal with all those parts of life at once. A game like that is tough to pull off, but the writing in Night in the Woods is so good that it all works tremendously well.

The game is just hilarious in a way that makes the drama within it more relatable. Most funny games tend to stay contained in their humor, throwing out random jokes at a rapid fire pace but not trying to go deeper with the story. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but it was nice to see this game use humor to help you get to know the personality of these people. Mae and her friends are some of the funniest characters I’ve seen out of any game, and that actually made me care about them when it wasn’t time for them to be funny. Perhaps because the core of this game is seeing on a day-to-day basis how the group of friends all cope with their troubled lives, and how it’s oftentimes with humor and distraction. It’s essentially how I live, and I imagine plenty of other people out there feel the same.

Anybody who has had the feeling of just being directionless post-college could probably immediately slide into Mae’s shoes and get something out of her story, but there is a lot of depth here with depression and mental disorders as well. It would be easy for the story to throw those ideas around for a cheap emotional punch, but every heartbreaking moment felt earned because every moment that came before those ones felt real. Characters talk to each other the way people really do, or at least should. They deflect, the reflect, they get mad, they get sad, they apologize, they forgive, and they joke.

I don’t know what it says about me that the most I’ve maybe ever related to a video game story was one with cartoon animal people, but Night in the Woods is one of the best stories in any game I’ve played and one that will stay with me forever.

2. Super Mario Odyssey

This may be my favorite Mario game. Odyssey was just an absolute joy to play and it feels like it realizes the promise of Super Mario 64‘s exploration approach to the series, while adding all the polish that Nintendo had continually been developing in the series since those N64 days. There was just no question I was going to get every moon and see everything it had to offer. And make no mistake, this game offers a ton.

Taking control of different enemies and characters turned out to also be a really well-done mechanic. It made getting around each world feel unique, and it led to some of the craziest moments I’ve ever experienced in a Mario game. Considering this game basically starts with you possessing a Jurassic Park-style T-Rex, you know you’re in for something great throughout the whole stretch. For some people, this might not be an interesting GOTY runner-up pick because it is another Mario game. I can see that perspective, but Mario games are loved the most when they’re well-designed and filled with great moments, and Mario Odyssey is a damn near perfect Mario game in my view that has so many amazing moments that every fan should experience for themselves.

Nintendo has once again delivered one of the best platformers in years with their icon. Super Mario Odyssey was probably the best I’ve felt playing any game this year. Maybe it alone won’t sell you a Switch right away, but it should be at the top of your list whenever you get one.

Ben’s 2017 Game of the Year: Cuphead

At times, this was probably the worst I’ve felt playing a game this year. It seems crazy that my Game of the Year came down to a game that consistently made me feel joyful and happy versus a game that made me feel incredibly tense and oftentimes miserable. But I’ve made it no secret that I’m glutton for punishment, and Cuphead is very well-designed punishment.

The art direction alone had me smitten with the game well before it even came out, but once I started playing, it became apparent just how important nailing the gameplay was for Studio MDHR. Even if the default control scheme is something out of a nightmare, just set the buttons to what you want and you’ll suddenly be playing one of the tightest-controlling, intriguing action platformers available. The game has a lot of clear influences, yet its visual style and boss fight-centric approach to gameplay made the whole package come together in a way that makes Cuphead feel like its own distinct thing. It’s a game that definitely was inspired by the creator’s nostalgia, but its not obsessed with copying the objects of it. It’s a really special game, and I played a lot of it. In fact, I probably played too much.

A regular playthrough of the game is already tough due to the game’s randomness, but it is a surmountable challenge. The game trains you to recognize attacks and patterns, but also to react when those patterns are broken. Regular mode is tough but mostly fair, and that is how I recommend Cuphead to people. But that wasn’t enough for me. After the 9 hours it took for my regular playthrough, I quickly fell into the rabbit hellhole of S ranking every fight. This is where you get a perfect grade while playing on Expert. The randomness alone makes this a really frustrating, stupid challenge, and I think it took me nearly 30 more hours to do it.

And then the developers patched the game a month later, saying that the weapon-swap trick I used for some of the fights turned out to be a glitch and they took it out.

So like any well-adjusted person, I got the S ranks on all those fights again, legitimately. You see, in my screwed up head, I wanted my S ranks to be without controversy. This is when I knew Cuphead had become an obsession that got tied into my pride. Everything in this game seems impossible, until you gradually start to feel psychotically entitled to the victory.

After 53 hours, I’ve beaten Cuphead. I’ve gotten every achievement. I’ve S ranked it. I S ranked about half the bosses again. And make no mistake, I complained and whined every step of the way. But the truth is that I wouldn’t do all that for a game that I didn’t absolutely adore. I love to play difficult games, but I don’t often try to master them like this. When I look back on my year, no game stands out above my time with Cuphead. It’s style is above and beyond that of most games out there, and its a challenge that took hold of every competitive bone in me and wouldn’t let go.

Absolutely play this game. Just don’t try to S rank it. It’s a stupid, stupid idea.

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